Summer skiing

It is the end of July, the Yukon summer is not completely over, we should still have 2 or 3 weeks of warm temperatures. But, the night is back, oh not the real dark night, nothing compare to the long winter night, but compare to the endless days of June and July, it makes a bit of a difference. It was time for a last trip on the Kluane icefield, in the Saint Elias mountains. Up there, it is another world with a very typical weather. Soon, the big snowstorm will come back, with cold temperatures. This area is so big, the main peaks are named, but hundreds of other one are still unnamed and some of them unclimbed. We took the opportunity of a good weather window to launch a quick trip  to try to find some interesting places for skiing….let me tell you, we were not disappointed.

Just like every adventure up here, it starts with a flight to be dropped on the icefield, and a flight to go there is always a scenic flight, it gives you a nice overview of what Kluane icefield is. Massive glaciers and mountains with peaks everywhere. After a 45 minutes flight, it was time to land on a huge plateau, we unload the plane quickly and day good-bye to Captain Tom, the pilot. And then, lets the adventure begins. Once the plane left, there nothing but silence and it takes a few minutes  to truly realize where you are…I go there every year and every time I am amazed by this incredible environment. The camp is quickly set up and let’s go skiing.  We enjoyed incredible scenery

We enjoyed incredible scenery and had some very good skiing, At low elevation ( 2600 meters of elevation) the snow was corn snow (hard in the morning and a bit soft in the afternoon. Higher, especially in the north faces, we found good cold and dry snow, 20cm of powder. We also crossed some large plateaus to check-out access to some nice slopes…projects for next years.

the landing area on the glacier

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A nice spot to set-up the camp

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Let’s go skiing

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Crossing a large plateau

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Claude Kluane

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Enjoying a nice evening at the camp, even if the days are getting shorter, the sun kept us warm until 2100, before disappearing behind the peaks.Kluane icefield 201600029

The evening light was unreal, at high altitude, the sky was a bit hazy because of the smoke of big forest fire in Alaska, hundreds of miles away.Kluane icefield 201600037

While shadows were getting longer and longer on the icefield, the  light was changing through the evening on the  Mount Hubbard, Alverstone and Kennedy.Kluane icefield 201600039Kluane icefield 201600007

And the night came, the air got colder and the sky clearer, allowing us to enjoy the stars.

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And it was time to go back down on earth, waiting for our plane.

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…our taxi from Icefield Discovery

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It was done for us, but not for Captain Tom our pilot, a few minutes to refuel and he took off again for a scenic flight…froid-2006

During this trip, we spotted and identified  lot of nice slopes of every kind and some possible first major descents. Sure I will go there again, are you interested too. Stay tuned, trips should be available for next summer.



Are the ski conditions still good? Do people really still care?  In town there is no more snow left, bike trails are nice and dry. A lot of people are in mountain bike and canoe mode right now. But, for real skiers, the season is just at his best.  Even after a very mild winter with low precipitation, we still have perfect Januaril conditions. We have January snow quality but with April temperatures and daylight….it is just perfect.  On North aspects the snow is still cold and dry and easy to ski while everywhere else corn snow provide good skiing. For the snow stability, it is not too bad, and we finally can go in steeper terrain without too many concerns.

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So we went up to Cleveland area…

…and down in a nice South facing little couloir with good snow.Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00012

good toys and a nice playground for the day…what else?yukonbackcountryskiing Clevage




Up again to find a good line.Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00013


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And dropping down a nice line.Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00014  Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00019


And up again for more turns….a nice cornice on the top of the Southeast peak of Cleveland.Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00022


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At low elevation, spring is here and after a low snow winter, approaches will be soon tricky, so far it is still good but for how long?Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00026

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Is the ski season over?

I have spent the last days with a good team skiing at Haines Pass. Spring is very early this year, now we have the snow conditions we normally have in early May. Does it mean skiing is not possible, or not good?. Of course not, I usually ski till at least mid-may from the road with no problem. Currently it is still possible to find good ski conditions. The warm-up we had for Easter week-end has affected considerably the snowpack, actually we do not have more than 1 meter of snow at low elevations (around 1000 meters), creeks start to be opened, willows are everywhere. But that crazy warm-up did not have only negative impact on our snowpack. Of course, on short term it has increased the risk of avalanche (cf the accident at Log cabin) and the snowpack has melted a lot, especially at low elevation. But from my point of view, I try to be optimistic and to think positively. The big warm up helped us to clean most of the nasty surface hoar layers buried in a lot of places and waiting for a skier to ski by. But , be still aware at higher elevation, especially in north aspect higher than 1600 meters of elevation.
What about skiing now? during the last days, Haines Pass area received a bit of fresh snow, between 5 and 15 cm of nice cold and dry snow (powder) on top of a supportive crust or old dry compact snow at higher elevation on north aspects. So yes, skiing was good to very good on most of the slopes,and just a bit wet and sometimes sticky in the afternoon at lower elevation, most of the times, just for the last turns close to the road. It is that time of the year when you can ski powder and perfect corn snow on the same run.
For the weather, it was another story, with a mix of everything, just like april is good at, sometimes it was nice and sunny, sometimes it was a complete white-out.
So if you are thinking about going skiing, go now, and with a bit of experience you might find some good slopes and be surprised by the ski conditions.
For what is going to happen next…I do not know, with that kind of winter we had, everything is possible, if it continues like that, the ski season could end very quickly, maybe if we are back to the normal, we could receive some more good dumps of snow…who knows? let’s talk in a few weeks.

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Nice run far from the crowd…

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Of course you have to earn your turns, but it worth it.

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I had a lot of fun with Sam the multi-tools guy  and François, good luck for your next adventure on a big wall, a big line, a big mountains or a crazy flight.


Easter Week-end and more

The winter is passing by so fast. with mild temperatures and low precipitations, it seems like I am still waiting for the winter to show up. But, when I came back to town yesterday, it seems like spring is well set-up in the valley with the first swans already swimming on the unfrozen Marsh Lake. The forecast for the next days is not very promising with warmer temperatures and maybe rain even in the mountains. But, let’s keep thinking positive. The last 3 weeks were not too bad at all and we had some great ski. Easter weekend was not that sunny, the snow was not that great at the lower elevations, but had a lot of fun. So far, snow conditions are not completely bad for a low snow winter. There is a bit more than 1 meter of snow at White Pass and Haines Pass at 1000m of elevation,  the willows are visible, but higher in the alpine the difference is not that obvious.

Easter weekend was also the time to connect with friends on other ways, less time on skis but more time singing and playing around the fire.

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Before the weekend, conditions were excellent in Haines Pass, I have left a couple of nice signatures on the slopes.

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Then we set up the traditional Easter weekend camp.

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The sledders were also well represented with their huge camp at the Summit.

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Even if the weather was not that great, the sun was not very too far, we had some good windows and decent snow conditions to have a lot of fun.

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The girls had a lot of fun skiing in the fresh snow.

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Then we have spent a lot of time chasing the sun and the light, with more or less success…

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Some of us have found other ways to take advantage of the current weather.

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And the after ski was always amazing.

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Chasing the light…

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Regardless of the conditions, skiing around here is always an adventure, if skiing is not as great as it should be there is always something new to discover and friends to be met.


Haines Pass Backcountry Skiing


After more than 3 years of work, I am happy to announce  shortly the release of my new publication, a guide book about backcountry skiing in the Haines Pass area.  Between the Yukon and the Alaskan coast, the Chilkat Pass ( also known as Haines Pass) is a unique place for skiing. In the 164 pages of the book, you will find descriptions of more than 60 routes with over 180 coloured pictures.  The book will be available in French in the next days, and as soon as I will have the funding for it, it will be published and print in English too, I think for fall 2016.
The French version will be available very soon here.

Thank you for the support I have received from the skier community in the Yukon and Alaska after the release of my first book (White Pass backcountry Skiing). A very big thank you to ZAG SKIS and PLUM bindings to support me in this project.

Finding the inspiration during the day was not too difficult…

Powder valley

…and it kept me busy during the long boreal nights.

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(Français) L’avalanche de Cherry Bowl

Sorry, this entry is only available in Français.



Not a lot of posts for 2016, since the beginning of the ski season. I have been too busy skiing but also working on big projects, news will be published soon. But, conditions are not too bad ans skiing is good with powder skiing almost everyday.

Yukon Backcountry Claude bakan ZAGSKIS




In the heart of the Yukon

Now on the TV screen, from the series In the Heart of the Yukon, the full documentary is also available online. Click on the picture below to watch the full movie.Hors des sentiers battus